news-category: Faculty Emeriti

2024 Spring Commencement Ceremony Especially Meaningful for Dr. Sophia Steibel

New Professor Emerita, Brazilian Native was Introduced to Gardner-Webb’s Campus 50 Years Ago

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—As the procession of Gardner-Webb students and faculty march into Spangler Stadium on Thursday, May 2, the moment will be savored by everyone. For one professor, Dr. Sophia Steibel, the 2024 Commencement Ceremony will mark three significant milestones.

Steibel is retiring after serving the University for 30 years, and she’s been named Professor Emerita in the M. Christopher White School of Divinity. Most importantly, the Brazilian native will reflect on the impactful day 50 years ago when she arrived on Gardner-Webb’s campus for the first time.    

“I was a student here from 1974-1977, sponsored by the Baptist Men of North Carolina,” Steibel related. “I came back to teach in 1994 (20 years later) — never would I have thought that. I am very grateful for all that I received from Gardner-Webb as a student and as a professor.”

Dr. Sophia Steibel at the 2023 School of Divinity Recognition
Ceremony.

When she earned her bachelor’s degree from Gardner-Webb in 1977, she also received the citizenship award as the female student of the year. Steibel went on to earn her Master of Arts in religious education and her Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. After receiving her master’s degree, she taught at the Baptist Religious Education Institute in Rio de Janeiro. Then, she taught at the South Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary in Rio de Janeiro after earning her Ph.D. Steibel also served three years as president of Campinas Baptist Theological College, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Her first position at Gardner-Webb was associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy. In 2001, Steibel joined the School of Divinity faculty. She has taught The Christian Journey, Designing Curriculum, Leadership with Volunteers in the Church, Mission and Ministry, and Administration and Leadership. Steibel coordinated the spiritual formation curriculum for the School of Divinity, and she led annual spirituality retreats for students. Christian education and spiritual formation are Steibel’s primary areas of research interest.

In 2020, Steibel was named the Bonnie Price Chair for Christian Formation and Leadership. The Chair was established to honor Bonnie Price, long-time School of Divinity friend and supporter, in recognition of her commitment to Christian formation and ministry. Steibel is also active in the life of First Baptist Church of Shelby, N.C.

Steibel is thankful for her years at Gardner-Webb. “As I said before, this is an institution that forms people to be contributors in society, honoring God and serving humanity,” she shared. “The interactions are meaningful, challenging at times, but they all contribute to the formation of a person wholistically. As a learner, I received individualized attention that helped me thrive. Professors like Dr. Tony Eastman and Dr. Alice Cullinan saw that I would be able to perform the learning task to the best of my ability. As a Professor, I tried to follow their lead.  Also, I was embraced by peers who valued my personhood and offered encouragement along the way.”

She concluded, “I feel privileged for having worked alongside professionals who live out their calling as teachers. Education at Gardner-Webb is a serious business that highlights growth and development in a context of Christian love.”

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

Previous News Article

Gardner-Webb Honors Experience, July 14-19, Introduces Qualified High School Students to College Life

Next News Article

Gardner-Webb Awards Degrees in Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 2

Related News

  • News Article

    Gardner-Webb Signs Bailey Wigness to Contract Extension

    Head Softball Coach Signs Extension Following Best Big South Finish in 12 Seasons BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb Head Softball Coach Bailey Wigness has signed a contract extension, the Department of Athletics announced on Tuesday, May 28. This past season, Wigness led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to their highest finish in the Big South since the 2012 season. […]

    A graphic with a phot of Bailey Wigness
  • News Article

    Gardner-Webb Clubs Recognized for Service to Campus and Community

    ASL Club Advisor Robert Moore, Campus Ministries United, and Pre-Health Society win Top Awards BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Hope Saunders, Gardner-Webb assistant director of Student Engagement, recently recognized leaders and advisors of the University’s clubs and organizations. Saunders noted that in 2023-2024 there were 37 groups for students to get plugged into. Four new clubs were introduced: […]

    a group of students with their awards
  • News Article

    Gardner-Webb Remembers Lives of Fallen Service Members During Memorial Day Observance on May 24

    Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Whitaker Relates Story of Sacrifice BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University faculty and staff, along with members of the community, gathered in front of Hamrick Hall on May 24 to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives serving their country. In his speech, retired U.S. Air Force Master […]

    The audience listens to the speaker for memorial day